Heimdall, the keeper of Bifröst

Heimdall, the keeper of Bifröst

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After Odin establishes the nine worlds on the ash tree Yggdrasyl, he creates Bifröst, the rainbow bridge, to connect Asgard and the lower worlds and he entrusts its care to the god. Heimdall (Heimdallr). Every day, the gods cross the bridge to reach the council chaired by Odin which takes place at the foot of the ash tree Yggdrasil, near the source of Urđr. Only Thor, because of his strength and weight, takes another path. On the day of Ragnarök, Heimdall will warn the gods to the sound of his Gilliarhorn horn. The god Heimdall appears in the films Thor I and Thor II released in 2011 and 2013 in theaters. He is played by actor Idris Elba.

Heimdall, the White Ase

Stanza 27 of de la Gylfaginning, the first of three parts of Snorri Sturluson's Edda, introduces the god. He lives in a house called Himingbjörg (“sky mountains”), located near the head of the bridge, outside the enclosure that protects Ásgarđr. There, he watches over the rainbow because he is responsible for guarding the entrance to the bridge against the giants. At the first sign of the Twilight of the Gods - the Ragnarök - he must blow his Gjallarhorn horn, the sound of which is heard all over the world, in order to call the gods into battle.

Also Heimdall does not need to sleep; he can see more than a hundred places day and night, and his hearing is so keen that he hears the grass and wool growing on the backs of sheep. Loki, moreover, mocks him and his situation which he considers uncomfortable: "You were once Naughty life reserved The stiff back You will always have To keep watch for the gods" (Lokasenna, 48)

Heimdall is also nicknamed the White Ase and Gullintanni because his teeth are made of gold. To move around, he uses his horse Gulltoppr, whose mane is also gold.
He was born from Óđinn's union with the nine daughters of Ægir, a giant personifying the sea, his daughters representing the waves. “Of nine mothers, I am the child, Of nine sisters, I am the son. So exclaims the god in the poem Heimdalllargaldr, which is dedicated to him.

Heimdall, god of the primordial order

La Rígsþula, a poem from the poetic Edda, tells how Heimdall, disguised and disguised as Rígr, travels among men and becomes the founder of the three classes of Viking society: jarls, free men and slaves.

First, the god arrives in a poor cottage whose gate is ajar, inhabited by an elderly couple who are standing by the fire. Ái and Edda (great-grandfather and great-grandmother) give him a warm welcome and serve a meal of broth and coarse bread. Rígr shares their bed. After three nights, he resumes his journey and stops for a while in a simple house, also guarded by a half-open gate, where Afi and Amma (grandfather and grandmother) live. Afi wears a trimmed beard; he is dressed in a tight shirt and is carving a stick. Amma is dressed in a dress held at the shoulders by two fibulae and she is busy spinning. Rígr spends three nights with them, sharing their bed, then sets off again. He then arrives in a sumptuous residence, full of wealth, guarded by a closed gate this time and whose floor is covered with straw. Fađir and Móđir live there. They welcome Rígr and serve a meal of meats, roasted birds, white bread and wine, on a table covered with a white linen tablecloth. Rígr stays three nights in the house, sharing there again the bed of the spouses.

Nine months go by. Each of the women gives birth to a son, descended from the god.

• Edda gives birth to þræll (“slave”). He is ugly but strong. He marries þír ("serve"). Their descendants form the slave class;
• Afi gives birth to Karl ("man"). He has red hair and sharp eyes. He knows how to make pitches, carts, and build houses. He marries Snör ("daughter-in-law"). Their descendants form the class of free men;
• Móđir gives birth to Jarl (“prince”). He has blond hair and sparkling eyes. He brandishes weapons, makes bows, shields, rides on horseback. He marries Erna ("long live"). Their descendants form the class of Jarls.

Thus, the god Heimdall embodies the primordial order and, in this, he opposes Loki, perpetual disruptor. Moreover, on the day of Ragnarök, they fight against each other. Another example of a clash between Loki and Heimdall is told in the Húsdrápa, a scaldic poem written by Ulf Uggason, recited at the wedding of Olaf's daughter (between 980 and 985) and of which twelve stanzas and half-stanzas are reached, cited by Snorri Sturluson in his Edda.

The goddess Freyja has a necklace of gold and amber, the necklace of the Brísingar. When she wears it, no man or god can resist her. She acquired it from the four dwarves who forged it, in exchange for a night with each of them. One day, Loki steals the necklace; he hides it under the sea and to watch it, it transforms into a seal. In the morning, the goddess notices the disappearance of the jewel; she sets out to find him, helped by Heimdall. The latter ends up discovering the thief; he in turn turns into a seal and confronts Loki. The fight drags on; at last Heimdall triumphs. He takes the necklace back from his thief and returns it to the goddess.

Ragnarök announcer

Heimdall's mission is therefore to watch over the Bifröst and blow his horn as the giants approach, thus announcing the Ragnarök. The “Twilight of the Gods” is described in particular in an anonymous poem from the 10th century, the Völuspá “said of the seer”, in which a seer tells the god Óđinn the history and fate of the world from its origin to its destruction. . It is also recounted in Gylfaginning, the first of three parts of Snorri Sturluson's Edda. First come three great winters called Fimbulvetr, which follow one another without summer coming: snow falls in abundance, frost and wind are intense. Everywhere, war is raging; murder and incest spare no one.

The brothers will clash
And will put themselves to death.
Cousins ​​will rape
The sacred laws of blood.
Horror will reign among men,
Debauchery will dominate.
(Völuspá, "said of the seer", anonymous poem, 10th century)

The goddess Sól and the god Máni (the sun and the moon) are then devoured by two wolves and the stars disappear. The earth trembles, the mountains crumble. Three roosters crowing: the first Fjalarr crows on the wood of the gallows; the second, Gullinkambi, awakens the warriors of Óđinn while the third sings in Hel's abode. So Heimdall blows his horn.

Heimdallr blows high
In the high horn.
Óđinn will consult
Mimir's head,
Yggdrasil ash
Shivers with all his height.
He moans, the old tree.
(Völuspá, "said of the seer", anonymous poem, 10th century)

The wolf Fenrir, son of Loki, breaks free from the bond with which the gods have chained him. The serpent of Miđgarđr, another son of Loki, emerges from the sea where Óđinn has relegated it and reaches the shore. Loki, in turn, frees himself from the shackles that hold him back. The sky is torn; the fire giants, led by Surt - son of Muspell -, appear. Embarked on the Naglfar boat, a ship made over the years using the nails of the dead, the deceased from Hel approach Loki at the helm. Hrym leads the frost giants.

Giants and monsters enter the collapsing Bifröst and reach the battlefield, Vígríđr. Ases and Einherjar advance, led by Óđinn, who holds his Gungnir spear in his hand. The Supreme Ase walks straight on the advancing wolf Fenrir, mouth wide open, lower jaw grazing the earth and upper jaw touching the sky, and dies devoured by it. But his son Viđarr immediately avenges him by slaying the monster. Þórr confronts Miđgarđr's serpent, which advances, spitting out its venom. He kills him and takes nine steps back, before collapsing, victim of the poison. Loki confronts Heimdall and the two kill each other. Freyr is killed by Surt, because his sword - so good that it fights alone - fails him, after he gives it to his servant in order to win the heart of the giant Gerđr.

Then the fire giant Surt throws flames on the whole world and destroys it. But, nothing is finished. A land, eternally green, in which the waterfalls are populated with fish and where the fields yield crops without having been sown, emerges from the waves. Baldr and Höđr, sons of Óđinn as well as the sons of Þórr who kept Mjöllnir, their father's hammer, come to settle on the Iđavöllr plain, where Ásgarđr once stood. A man and a woman, Líf ("life") and Lífþrasir ("perennial") were able to hide and survive by feeding on dew.

The sun is shining again, because before being devoured, the goddess Sól gave birth to a daughter as beautiful as herself, and she succeeds her in heaven.

Lif and Leif-thrasir
They will hide
In the woods of Hoddmimir,
And the morning dew
They will feed.
It is from them that men will naive.
Have a girl
Alfrodull (Sól) will give birth
Before Fenrir catches up with her.
She'll ride, this virgin,
On the paths of his mother,
When the divine powers perish.
(Völuspá, "said of the seer", anonymous poem, 10th century)


• Régis Boyer, L'Edda Poétique, Fayard, 1992.
• The Edda, accounts of Nordic mythology, by Snorri Sturluson, the dawn of the peoples, Gallimard.
• Régis Boyer, Yggdrasill: The religion of the ancient Scandinavians, Paris, Payot, 1992.
• Jean Renaud, Les dieux des Vikings, Editions Ouest France.

Video: Thor-Heimdall Opens Bifröst